Tribe takes control more land possible casino site 5-2-07

- The Mashpee Wampanoag Indians have taken another step toward building a casino by buying control of 200 more acres in Middleborough, adjacent to the 125 acres their investors bought last Friday.

Detroit casino developer Herb Strather, the tribe's leading investor, agreed Friday to purchase the 125 acres during an auction held at town hall. The land is off Route 44, which is close to Interstate 495.

The town-owned property was formerly owned by Sadie and Daniel Striar. In a new deal disclosed Wednesday, the tribe signed an agreement giving it the option to buy 200 acres from the Striar family, tribe spokesman Scott Ferson said.

Ferson would not disclose terms of the agreement, which gives the tribe the right of first refusal. There's no phone listing in Middleborough for Striar. Ferson added that there may be more land purchases.

“The tribe and its investors felt it was important to acquire land for a variety of purposes,” he said, naming housing and gambling as possibilities.

“While they're sensitive to the state process on the gaming issue, the tribe can move ahead on a number of fronts while the state makes a determination on gaming,” he said.

The Mashpee Wampanoags have received federal recognition as a tribe, which becomes official May 23. Tribal leaders want Gov. Deval Patrick and Beacon Hill lawmakers to pass legislation allowing them to build a casino.

The federal status already gives the tribe the right to operate bingo parlors within 50 miles of its tribal home on Cape Cod, but the tribe wants the state to pass a bill that would enable it to build a casino similar to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

Middleborough Town Manager John Healey said Wednesday that the tribe has big plans even if the state rejects an expansion of gambling.

“They're talking about a destination resort, with 36 holes of golf, and five-star accommodations and a number of different entertainment venues,” Healey said. “Even without a casino, it would be a pretty substantial operation.”

Ferson added: “Right now, it can be anything.”

The tribe and its investors have 45 days from the auction sale to pay for the 125 acres.

The Mashpee Wampanoags own 150 acres in Mashpee but have pledged to not seek to build a casino on Cape Cod.

The tribe is also looking to buy land on the Cape and has an interest in the 1,000-acre Massachusetts Military Reservation in Bourne, Ferson said.

Patrick has a task force examining whether to support an expansion of legal gambling beyond the Massachusetts Lottery and the state's four racetracks. He expects a report by the end of the summer.